Discover key areas that leadership teams need to focus on early in the year to give commercial teams the momentum they need to hit their 2024 growth targets.
The transition into a new calendar year can create a period of adjustment that negatively impacts a company’s productivity and their growth trajectory if not managed well. In 2023, up to 49% of companies were adjusting their growth projections as early as the beginning of March. Q1 underperformance can often set the tone and momentum for the rest of the year if left unchecked.
To avoid such a scenario and ensure a fast start to 2024, it is imperative that CEOs and their leadership teams stay focused on seven key areas, prioritizing execution instead of strategy.
1. Commercial Skills
To have a strong start, it goes without saying that you need strong talent. Our research finds that seller attrition has declined this year compared to two years ago, but we’re also seeing stagnating or declining seller productivity. The start of the calendar year is the right time to evaluate seller competencies and performance and consider phasing out less productive sellers.
Another common mistake we often see is companies failing to align their talent with the changing needs of the organization. Now is the right time to review any role changes to see if you have the right people with the right skills befitting their new roles.
2. Time Spend
Time management is directly related to productivity, so now is the right time to check how your sellers are spending their time and nip any bad habits in the bud. A lot of companies fail to clarify expectations regarding seller time spend, which can lead to inefficiencies.
Many leaders only compare administrative overhead and time spent with the customer but fail to consider time spent planning—that is, researching about the customer’s business and developing a tailored approach before each meeting. While addressing redundancies in commercial team activities, be sure to emphasize the importance of deal planning and customer research.
3. Sales Process
A structured, clearly defined sales process that is robust and adaptable is crucial for early-year momentum. Many companies often continue to use outdated sales processes that don’t put the customer’s needs first. They buyer’s journey is rarely a straight line these days, so the sales process needs to adapt to that based on current market dynamics and specific customer needs.
Now is the time to clarify and reintroduce commercial teams to the sales process and buying journey. Make a plan to review this process regularly while paying attention to market conditions every quarter.
4. Commercial Team Enablement
Regular and consistent enablement activities at the start of the year can significantly improve the effectiveness of sales teams, but a significant number of companies fail to recognize this opportunity and lack the enablement resources to help their sellers excel. The right approach is to see enablement as a comprehensive program, rather than a series of events.
Start by identifying the specific materials that will be used in the three months following kick-off to encourage the desired behavior in sellers. You need to strike the right balance between event-based and resource-based enablement to instill the right self-serve habits for a productive sales team.
Effective frontline managers enable effective teams by scaling sales efforts and overseeing the correct execution of strategies. Not enough companies focus on turning sales managers into adept coaches that can transfer the right skills and competencies to their teams effectively.
Make it a point to invest in the upskilling of sales managers so that they can coach their teams to achieve shorter deal cycle times. Teach them to shift the sales conversation away from pushing deals forward and focus on tailoring messaging to the buyer’s own data and buying process.
6. Demand Generation
A healthy pipeline is essential to a fast start to the year, yet many companies neglect to stimulate demand at the beginning of the year. Marketing plays a key role here in generating demand while sales teams are still familiarizing themselves with new accounts and territories.
Your demand generation engine needs to start with a two-pronged approach: stimulating latent or stalled demand from the previous year while restarting top-of-funnel efforts with standard plays. Targeting and personalization are key to advancing leads through the funnel quickly in a world where AI-generated generic messaging is becoming commonplace.
7. RevTech Tools
Ideally, tools should be used to enhance the sales process. However, companies often don’t get what they expect out of the tools they buy for two reasons: firstly, not clearly defining the tools that their sellers need in the actual market, and secondly, having bad commercial processes and bad data to work with.
This is where companies should evaluate their tech stack utilization to understand where enhancements will have the quickest impact. Focus on technologies already in use by commercial teams instead of ramping them up on new tools. Most importantly, use this opportunity to clean up underlying data and processes so that your teams can maximize the effectiveness of the tools that they work with.
Armed with these recommendations, your company should be on track to building the momentum it needs to meet its growth targets this year. This article is a summary of the full report that includes data from SBI’s research findings as well as more detailed takeaways, which you can download and read for free. Get the report here.